Monday, May 28, 2012

South America’s Animal Shaped Mounds

 Perhaps the most famous effigy mound in the Americas is the gigantic Serpent Mound in Ohio. And it was long thought that these curious structures, constructed by the Adena people, were unique to North America. But a series of mounds has been discovered in several coastal valleys in Peru, and there is evidence that they may be as much as 4,000 years old. And some of them are enormous.

One of the mounds depicts an orca. Another, located in the Chillon Valley, appears to be a condor.  Nearby is a figure that looks like a cross between a cougar and a cayman or alligator. Both seem to be deliberately oriented.  The condor points toward the most extreme orientation of the Milky Way while the cougar-cayman points to where the sun rises on the morning of the June solstice. Two other birdlike figures in the Casma Valley also point toward the June solstice.

The discoverer of the mounds, anthropologist Robert Benfer, formerly of the University of Missouri, found the mounds by studying satellite photographs. He has so far explored only five valleys located along the Peruvian coast. In addition to the large figures, he has found many smaller mounds. He plans to return to the valleys to gather material for radiocarbon dating in order to establish more accurate dates for the sites. He is also eager to explore other valleys along the Peruvian coast in the hope of finding even more effigies.

Here is another interesting fact about these South American mounds. The famous Serpent Mound in Ohio is believed to have been built somewhere between 1000 BC and 1000 AD. If Benfer is right about the age of the Peruvian effigies and they are around 4,000 years old, then they are much older than their North American counterparts. Were these structures built by two different peoples with the same ideas, or was there communication between the two continents? And why would there have been such a lapse in time between the construction of the South American mounds and those built in North America? Hopefully, we’ll find out more sometime in the near future.

There is a photo of the orca mound here

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